Volkswagen’s distinctive van had a worldwide following among surfers, campers, and the counterculture. Now, it’s coming back in all-electric form and is called the ID.Buzz.
It’s taken 2 decades to come up with the right formula, but Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess says the German automaker will finally reveal its long-awaited replacement for the old Microbus on March 9.
U.S. fans will need to hang tight, however. The European version will go into production first, with a stretched model not set to follow Stateside until early 2023, a VW spokesman told GearJunkie.
“The legend returns on 03/09/22!” Diess said in a tweet — setting off some confusion, as that could mean September 9 to Europeans. In fact, the new ID.Buzz, as the new van is now known, will make its first appearance in production form during a March 9 teleconference.
The legend returns on 03/09/22! pic.twitter.com/Q4hFyCN5mr
— Herbert Diess (@Herbert_Diess) January 6, 2022
A Loyal Following
Like the VW Bug, the original Microbus has had an outsized following that has lasted long beyond the point when it was pulled from production. It dates back to a sketch doodled by a Dutch Volkswagen importer and first rolled off the assembly line on March 8, 1950. Production continued in some markets through 2014 — though the Type 2 was pulled from the U.S. market years before.
Like the Beetle, the Type 2 reached its peak of popularity in the 1960s and early 1970s, clicking with the American counterculture movement. But it remains a popular product even today, with fans lovingly restoring those that haven’t rusted away. With their distinctive rear-engine layout, roomy interior, and large windows, they still can be found at campsites or hauling surfboards.
The Modern VW Microbus is Born
As it did when the original Beetle was phased out, VW tried to come up with a more modern design, but its various Transporter models never developed the same level of loyalty.
So, the automaker began seeking a retro design that could click with buyers while also meeting modern fuel economy and safety regulations. That includes the Bulli concept that was raved about after it was unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.
But it wasn’t until VW shifted gears, debuting the E-Bulli Concept at the January 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit that it knew it had things nailed down.
Within months, the widely acclaimed concept — renamed the ID.Buzz — was approved for production. But it has taken the automaker more time than expected to finalize the design, leading to a series of delays.
2022 is coming soon: the year of the new #VWIDBuzz! 🚐
— Volkswagen News (@volkswagen) December 23, 2021
The Next VW Microbus
VW has been mum about specific details, beyond confirming the reborn microbus will share the same underlying MEB platform as the ID.4 crossover. It’s a flexible, skateboard-style “architecture” placing batteries and motors beneath the load floor. If anything, that should maximize the interior space of the electrified model.
The design hews closely to that of the 2017 concept — and the original Microbus, with the driver sitting far more forward than with conventional modern minivans. Even so, the ID.Buzz is intended to meet the latest European and American safety standards.
A partially camouflaged image VW released recently — the lead image of this story — suggests that the most significant changes for production include larger headlamps and more conventional mirrors and door handles. As with the ID.4, expect an LED crossbar to connect the headlamps.
The cabin is expected to feature a lounge-like layout. As with the ID.4, there’ll be a digital gauge cluster as well as a wide infotainment screen.
Most vehicle controls will be handled digitally. According to reports out of Europe, VW may introduce a semi-autonomous driving option for the ID.Buzz.
Electrified Van Life Versatility
But the ability to use the microbus for an active lifestyle, like the original, appears to have been a high criterion for the product development team. That includes carrying things like surfboards and taking the van out for weekend camping.
Using the MEB platform will give the ID.Buzz significant flexibility, and it’s expected to be offered in several different configurations. Initially, the European market will get the short-wheelbase passenger and cargo versions. The U.S. will only get a long-wheelbase model, VW spokesman Mark Gillies told GearJunkie.
The platform will have flexibility when it comes to the powertrain, as well. That includes rear-wheel-drive with a single electric motor, and all-wheel-drive using motors on each axle, believed capable of delivering close to 400 horsepower.
The concept had a 111-kilowatt-hour battery pack that would deliver an estimated 372 miles of range — though that was based on the European WLTP standard. The mileage would likely dip to just north of 300 miles per charge using the American EPA test cycle. Smaller and less expensive battery pack options could be offered as well.
Pricing is another uncertainty, though a starting figure of around $40,000-50,000 has been floated.
VW ID.Buzz: What’s in a Name?
One of the other questions centers around what VW plans to call the production model. Other battery models have gone with an alphanumeric format, including ID.3, ID.4, and ID.7. But it may remain the ID.Buzz to give the new van a more emotional flair.
Other names that have been, er, buzzing around include Bulli, Bus, Microbus, and even e-Samba. VW may opt to go with different names reflecting the history of the original Type 2 in different markets.
Production so far has been confirmed for the VW plant in Hanover, Germany. Additionally, the van could be the yet-unnamed second product scheduled for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The automaker alternately could use its huge manufacturing complex in Mexico.
Look for the European models to reach showrooms later this year. The long-wheelbase American version — or versions — “will debut early in 2023,” according to spokesman Gillies.